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High smoking rates hold back Russian effort to revive health, sports 

Jump to full article: Associated Press (AP), 2002-05-31
Author: ERIC ENGLEMAN, Associated Press Writer


MOSCOW - where nearly two-thirds of men light up regularly — are holding back the government's efforts to revive the country's sport tradition, officials said Friday.

"The situation is getting worse, not better," Russian Deputy Health Minister Gennady Onishchenko said in marking World No Tobacco Day.

He said 63.2 percent of Russian men smoke — including such prominent figures as the coach of the national soccer team, Oleg Romantsev — and that number shoots up to 72 percent for men between the ages of 30 and 34. Nearly 10 percent of Russian women smoke.

In all, 270,000 people die in Russia every year of smoking-related diseases — more than die of AIDS , car accidents, drug overdoses, murders and suicides combined, according to the World Health Organization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a judo black belt who shuns smoking and says he swims daily, has ordered his government to promote health and exercise and revive Russia's once-vaunted sports establishment. . .

As part of the anti-smoking campaign, the Health Ministry and WHO sponsored a contest in 28 Russian regions, offering cash prizes to people who quit smoking for several weeks in March. More than 40,000 people participated.

The government also plans to sponsor national sporting competitions and provide top athletes with monthly stipends of 15,000 rubles (dlrs 470), starting next year, said Vladimir Nilyubin of the Russian State Sports Committee.

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